SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – May marked the end of the COVID public health emergency but the disease remains a threat.
A recent wave of cases has some wondering if it’s time to dust off those masks.
“I personally would not be against it. I think public safety comes before convenience,” said Kaila Brockington. “If I had to go to masks to protect each other, I would not feel any type of way about that at all.”
According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) COVID tracker, hospital admissions are up 21.6%, and deaths up 8.3% in recent weeks.
“I have been thinking about pulling my mask on again because I know the numbers are rising,” said Zach Freeman. “I don’t feel like catching COVID for the fifth time.”
Thirty-two percent of Americans say that masks bother them, but the vast majority do not have a problem with them, according to a 2022 Pew Research study.
The CDC suggests using a mask anywhere there will be more than 20 people.
“Masking in and among itself is not gonna stop you from getting COVID. It might reduce your
risk or slow the transmission of it a little bit,” said Dr. Timothy Conelly, an Internal Medicine Physician at Memorial Health.
Those who are at a higher risk of infection are strongly encouraged to wear a mask and stay up to date on vaccinations.
“Context is everything, so in general, wearing a mask for a brief period of time is unlikely to do any significant harm,” said Conelly.
In countries like China, Japan and Korea, mask use is common in society. Many mask up when they are using public transportation such as trains and planes.
Are we out of the woods?
“The pandemic is over in terms of large numbers of people getting one particular infection and large numbers of people dying from COVID-19, we’re not seeing that,” said Conelly. “We have good medications that are very effective.”
In a GALLUP poll, 49% of Americans agreed that the pandemic is over, and only 25% concerned about catching COVID.
Conelly says there are currently 14 patients at Memorial Health hospitalized due to COVID and two in critical condition — a far cry from the previous three years.
Time-tested and FDA-approved treatments like Paxlovid, which is used to treat COVID-19, have seen success in preventing deaths, especially in the elderly population.
“We can’t live in fear of COVID and we shouldn’t live in denial, and I tell everybody they should have a plan,” said Conelly. “Don’t say if you get COVID, say when you get covered or when you get the flu, what are you gonna do about it?”
Knowing the steps to take after a positive viral test is key, and talking to your doctor should be the first step.
Conelly notes that inevitability, everyone will contract COVID two or three times, and that having an action plan in place can make the difference in hospitalization or not.
“The newer Bivalent vaccines offer some protection from getting the disease. Even with the new mutated strains, our immune system has seen something similar to it enough to where we mount a good immune response and we generally do pretty well,” said Conelly.
Eighty-one percent of Americans have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but only 17% have the updated Bivalent dose.
While vaccines can help reduce your risk of hospitalization, Conelly notes that multiple vaccinations in close proximity to each other can be dangerous.